Brockhouse Medal comes 'home' to McMaster physicist

April 25, 2011

    Bruce Gaulin, Brockhouse Chair in the Physics of Materials, has been awarded the Canadian Association of Physicists' Brockhouse Medal. File photo.

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The Canadian Association of Physicists is awarding its Brockhouse Medal to McMaster
Professor Bruce Gaulin - who happens to be director of the University's Brockhouse
Institute for Materials Research.

Bertram Brockhouse, a McMaster professor, was a Nobel laureate in physics, and
medal recognizes and encourages outstanding experimental or theoretical
contributions to condensed matter and materials physics.

Gaulin is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and holds the
Brockhouse Chair in the Physics of Materials.

His specialty - and one of McMaster's - is neutron scattering, a field in which he is
recognized as an international expert. Neutron scattering is used for measuring the
physical properties of materials by analyzing their atomic structures and the forces that
are at play within solids.

Knowing those properties, and how they change at different temperatures, allows
scientists and engineers to understand solids at a microscopic level and find
appropriate uses for new materials. Brockhouse was a pioneer in the area half a
century ago.

"This just speaks to the tradition McMaster has created and now maintains," Gaulin
of the medal. "It goes back a long time - to Brockhouse's time."

Gaulin was a PhD student at McMaster in the 1980s when he first met Brockhouse.
Later, after Gaulin joined the faculty at McMaster, the men collaborated on a review
article, shortly before Brockhouse was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1994.

Gaulin remembers Brockhouse, who died in 2003, as a brilliant but humble
whose traditions of inquiry and collaboration propelled the study of physics at
McMaster to the high profile it continues to enjoy today.

The medal was established in 1999, and Gaulin is the second McMaster scientist to
awarded the prize. Tom Timusk received the medal in 2000.

"We are delighted that the Canadian Association of Physicists has chosen to honour
Bruce Gaulin with its prestigious Brockhouse Medal. This is very fitting recognition,"
said David Chettle, associate dean of science, research and external relations. "The
Faculty of Science is proud of Bruce Gaulin and very pleased to see his excellence
honoured in this way."

Chettle noted Gaulin's previous service as President of the Canadian Institute of
Neutron Scattering and his current role as President of the Neutron Scattering Society
of America as indications of his profile in the field.

Gaulin is to receive his medal June 16 at the annual conference of the Canadian
Association of Physicists at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. The
association was founded in 1945 and represents more than 1,600 physicists and
students in Canada and abroad.

Gaulin, who has been at McMaster 22 years, explained that a typical project in his
involves five to 10 people and takes one to two years, so he considers the medal a
team win.

"It is a great honour," he said. "We have very bright students and colleagues to
with. I'm very honoured to get this recognition, but on the other hand, it really
recognizes the efforts of many people."


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